President Biden is granting his first three pardons while in office and commuting the sentences of 75 individuals serving prison time for nonviolent drug crimes, as part of the Biden administration’s “broad commitment” to reforming the justice system and addressing racial disparities.
The White House said Tuesday that the pardons and commutations embody the president’s “belief that America is a nation of second chances,” saying that the individuals have “made efforts to rehabilitate themselves, including through educational and vocational training or drug treatment in prison.”
“Today, I am pardoning three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities,” the president said, adding that he is commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving “long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been serving on home confinement during the COVIDpandemic [sic]—and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act.” The First Step Act is a law that passed with bipartisan support under the Trump administration, which lowers the mandatory minimum sentences for prior drug felonies, shifting to offer drug offenders with three convictions up to 25 years in prison instead of life; and allows some people serving sentences for crack cocaine offenses the opportunity to petition a judge for a reduced penalty.
The individuals expected to receive a full pardon are Abraham Bolden, an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service agent, who was the first African American to serve on a presidential detail. Bolden, in 1964, was charged with offenses relating to attempting to sell a copy of his Secret Service file. Bolden has maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the agency. Bolden had received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and for his courage in challenging injustice.
Betty Jo Bogans, 51, is also set to receive a full pardon from the president after she was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in the Southern District of Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice—neither of whom were detained or arrested. Officials said Bogans was a single mother with no prior record when convicted. Bogan received a seven-year sentence.
Officials say Bogans, since her release, has held consistent employment, even while undergoing treatment for cancer, and has focused on raising her son. Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, is also expected to receive a full pardon. He was convicted in 2002 for his business to facilitate the distribution of marijuana in the Northern District of Georgia. Jackson was not personally involved in the trafficking of marijuana, officials said, but allowed marijuana distributors to use his pool hall to facilitate drug transactions.
At the time, Jackson accepted full responsibility for his actions and pled guilty. Since his release from custody, Jackson converted his business into a cell phone repair service, and he now hires local high school students through a program that seeks to provide young adults with work experience. Jackson, according to officials, also works to build and renovate homes in a community that “lacks quality affordable housing.”